Tuesday, March 28, 2017

We're having a foot washing?

On Sunday I told the congregation we will be observing Maundy Thursday with a meal and foot washing.  Foot washing will be a new-to-us element in worship, so the initial response was the sound of crickets.   

During Sunday School there were questions.  "Does Scottsville have a pedicure place?  Will we wash feet and THEN eat or the other way around?"  We laughed and made some bunion jokes.  

It's all good.  

So why are we having a foot washing?

First:  I understand your hesitance.  Almost no one likes their own feet. Many of us have a hard time even wearing sandals!  Since a foot washing allows someone to not only smell our feet, but also see our tootsies up closeit's a tough pill to swallow.

I get it.   Before my first foot washing I painted my toenails and scrubbed my feet as if they were auditioning for a podiatry commercial. I was prepared.  

The disciples, however, had no warning.  There was no time for a pedicure, and too bad because their feet were probably caked with mud, excrement, bacteria, and more.  Those were the feet Jesus knelt down to wash during supper.

The disciples were in need of a physical foot washing, but even more soa spiritual washing.  A foot washing reminds us Jesus cleanses us of our sin—from the “smallest” offense to the most egregious of errors. We, like the disciples, are cleansed by Jesus. 

And as hard as it is for us to bare our soles to Jesus, it is much harder to bare our souls to Jesus...so we keep the smelliest parts of us hidden and hope no one notices the stench.  In so doing, we miss out on the joy of forgiveness because we can't bear to be vulnerable...  

which brings me to one of the reasons we're washing feet this Maundy Thursday.  I am naive enough to think it may aid us in confessing our sinsthat the act of being vulnerable with one another will aid us in being vulnerable to Jesus.  

It's worth the price of discomfort.

Another reason:  This tangible act is a clarion call to service.  Jesus washed all the disciples' feeteven Judas' feet.  There is no task beneath the disciple.

Maundy Thursday is an opportunity to remember John 13 together.  It is also an opportunity to experience hospitality, love, and forgiveness.  I challenge you, brothers and sisters, to consider joining us for this special worship service. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

You're Normal, Pastor!

During Lent our congregation joins with the Methodists, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians for worship and a simple meal on Tuesday nights. Last night was our night to host, so it was my turn to preach.

On Sunday I preached on forgiveness; however by Monday I was picking at an old wound again.  I confessed as much during my Lenten sermon and one of our deacons piped up "You're normal!"

This made me smile--not because I'm proud of my sin--but because he recognized I struggle just like everyone else.

Part of helping one another grow as Jesus' disciples is saying "me too" to one another.  It reminds us we're not alone--not even the pastor.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Meaningful Morning

After talking with the deacons and staff, I decided to try something new this year:  A Drop-In Imposition of Ashes and Blessing.  Since our congregants are of various religious backgrounds, two wise church members told me to talk about the 'what' and 'why' of Ash Wednesday so I spent some time Sunday explaining its importance.

I decided "in for a penny, in for a pound" so the hours were 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. this morning and later today I'll be at the Methodist Church with Pastor Bruce from 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

At 6:30 a.m. the first congregant arrived--a farmer on his way to work. Then came children, seniors, toddlers and mamas, middle-aged adults, long-time church members, and just-joined-on-Sunday folks.

I can't believe how many parents brought their children.  What a gift!  I hadn't imagined how life-giving it would be to talk about forgiveness with 8-year olds or how sweet it would be to repeat aloud words of the season with toddlers:  Cross (CROSS!), Lent (LENT!), Easter (EASTER!).

I hadn't imagined how meaningful it would be to pray with each person, or to read together the good news of God's compassion and forgiveness of our sins (Psalm 103).  What a gift.

Truly the pastorate is such a privilege.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Thank You Church Staff!

Following worship today, the church staff enjoyed a celebratory Christmas lunch out on the town! Table fellowship is an integral part of our church's DNA, so we happily enjoyed a couple of hours eating, laughing, telling stories, and visiting. (Shout out to Amici's for the photo shoot!)

Karen is our secretary.  I can't tell you how many people stop by Karen's office each week. Her gifts of humor, pastoral care, and encouragement make everyone feel welcome.  Also she understands and mostly appreciates my "gift" of sarcasm.  Thank you, Karen!

Janice is our pianist.  Janice has built on our strength of people of all ages to plan a Christmas musical involving 2 year-olds to 90 year-olds. I love it!  Janice and her daughter Angela have started a children's choir. Our little worshippers are joyful and learning to lead. Thank you, Janice!

Hallie is our Coordinator of Family Ministries.  Hallie organizes fellowship and fun. She is skilled in equipping others to lead (discipleship!).  Today she shared plans for a hot cocoa bar at church on Dec. 25th.  PERFECT!  Her enthusiasm is infectious. Thank you, Hallie!

Thanks be to God for these ladies.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Songs of the Season

At Scottsville Baptist Church we kick off the holiday season by making Advent wreaths.  On Sunday we lit the first purple candle. Soon the sanctuary will be adorned with greenery and a tree of Chrismons.  Musicals, parties, caroling, missions, and candlelit services will fill December with joy.

Christmas is also great for all the holly, jolly Hallmark-y reasons.  I can quote Elf and own a Clark W. Griswold t-shirt.  Christmas is my jam.  I love the holidays and I'm a glass half full lady; however for these first days of the Christian new year I listen to the contemplative, serious carols of the season.

The Christmas story in Matthew is not all tinsel and bows.  Joseph was told in a dream that his family must leave Bethlehem.  Herod was foaming at the mouth to destroy the Christ child, so in the dead of night Joseph woke his family and they hightailed it to Egypt.  The holy family were refugees on the run. 

Herod went on to commit atrocities so evil we don't like to speak them aloud any time of the year--much less at Christmas.  Part of my Advent discipline is to listen to Coventry Carol and mourn that the world was not and is not as it should be.

Listening to serious carols during Advent is a way of lamenting brokenness--then and now.  It is also a prayerful way of lifting up and remembering those who are not in a holly, jolly way this season.  They sit beside us in the pews and next to us at work.  People grieve the loss of loved ones.  Ornaments and traditions hold memories--some of which are painful.  Every family has broken relationships--sometimes seemingly beyond repair. The plight of refugees is real.  Fleeing oppressors did not end with the holy family's journey to Egypt. 

Pray this season to notice those for whom Christmas is complicated.  Reach out to the lonely and weary.  Make room at your table.  Visit folks who are missing a spouse.  Don't insist people emote in certain ways.  Feel free to be cheerful, but make room grieving and tears.

Seek ways to aid refugees in your neighborhood.  Look out for the widows and widowers and orphans.  Give to missions and non-profits who minister to those in need.  Read the entire Christmas story and reach out to the world.

Make room for serious carols during Advent.  It's important.  

"...and in His name all oppression shall cease."

Thursday, September 8, 2016

About Those Behind the Scenes People...

In the church we laud behind the scenes work and rightly so.  Often these workers receive no applause and most don't want it anyway. Accolades aren't their fuel:  Obedience to Christ is.

As a pastor I often get to witness these folks at work and I've discovered it's crowded behind the curtain!  I keep bumping into people quietly serving their neighbors. Gifts of finances, time, listening ears, prayer, meal invitations--these are just a few things.

It's hopeful and humbling.  

The church isn't perfect, but when behind the scenes work becomes the norm the church grows healthier by the minute.  Grateful for the busyness behind the Scottsville Baptist curtain.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

All Creatures of Our God and King

Eula has been a member of the choir for 60 years.  Just before our Christmas cantata Eula gave a speech about the importance of choir in her life.  There wasn't a dry eye in the room.  Eula is great, and has a wonderful sense of humor.  

A few months ago Eula led us in worship by singing a solo.  Ordinarily I am seated in a pulpit chair, but that day I sat in the front pew.  The congregation was quiet and engaged until all of a sudden the baptismal curtain just behind Eula began to tremble rather violently.  

I had no time to entertain the thought "Is Jesus back?" because I soon saw a furry paw reach out from the side of the curtain.  


Since I am the pastor, I feel like it's my duty to take care of business when something goes awry.  FYI:  I am not really an animal person.  I serve a congregation of farmers and hunters and they know this about me.  Once I was told "Dressing a buck is not your spiritual gift."  I am not one with nature in general.  LOVE nature from afar.  Up close?  No.

Anyway, there's a furry paw in front of me and I'm the pastor and I've got to respond to this situation.  Raccoon, large rat, possum, chicken (furry ones exist I've learned)--who or whatever you are, Pastor Katie is at the ready.

But before I had time to guess what I'd encounter at our River Jordan the neighborhood cat sauntered (no other way to describe it) out from behind the curtain and onto the baptismal ledge--which had then become a literal catwalk.

I nearly died of hysteria. 

I am ill prepared to be serious in such moments, but my better instincts took over. I had a job to do:  Get the cat out of the sanctuary without disturbing the special music. Cat was in full view of the entire church and she was strutting as if this was her one shining moment.  Who could blame her?  Repeat:  She was on a CATWALK.

See baptismal curtain, catwalk, pulpit chairs, and side exit.  Photo credit:  Elizabeth Liebermann.

I devised a plan:  Stealthily dart behind Eula to retrieve the cat--but oh-so-carefully because I was wearing a dress.  There is only so much darting one can achieve in a dress.  I am also short and the big pulpit chairs were in my way--so I would need to climb them without bending over and also lovingly coax a cat down from her baptistery catwalk.  

All of my studies prepared me for this moment. 

My plan mostly worked except the cat did NOT want to leave, so she meowed and tried to scratch me.  I open the side door (which is approximately wide enough to accommodate a Barbie), accidentally slammed it, and the congregation thinks I have fallen and can't get up--all while praises to Jesus are sung.  Shout out to Eula and Janice (pianist) who sang and played the whole time.

I waited until Eula finished singing to reappear from the Barbie side exit to explain what happened.  The congregation erupted in laughter including Eula.  When Eula later told her daughter, Jennifer, what happened, Jennifer bought Eula a cat purse.  A few weeks later the neighborhood cat was seemingly waiting for her BFF Eula after choir practice and voila we snapped this photo. 

Wonderful Eula pictured with our neighborhood cat and her new purse.  Photo credit:  Angela Grandstaff.
Eula, thank you for loving choir, loving cats, and being a great sport!